A few days ago, I offered to make chocolate chip cookies for my kids.
I should note here that I eat gluten-free about 90% of the time, so I don't really have a dog in the fight on this one, so to speak. I bake mostly so that my kids aren't eating the majority of their foods from plastic wrappers with godknowswhat for ingredients.
I offered to make the cookies, and my daughter scrunched up her nose and said, "No thanks. I like soft cookies."
She noted that the cookies I typically bake are on the crunchier side, which is more than her discerning palate can appreciate.
I could have gone down two roads here. First, I could have lectured her about being picky and unappreciative of such a lovely offer. It's not everyday a mother stands in the kitchen and offers to whip up freshly-baked snacks (at least...not in this house).
Second, I could have seen this as a domestic challenge and dug around until I found a perfectly soft cookie recipe and rushed to the kitchen for a test-run.
Readers: I chose both roads.
Maggie got a short, succinct lecture on the demerits of pickiness to the point of forgoing homemade chocolate chip cookies, and I rushed to the kitchen in search of a softer chocolate chip cookie recipe to test.
I'm neurotic that way, which I hope one day my children will remember as charming.
I thought about scouring the Internet for said recipe, but then I looked at my stack of old-school, in-print cook books and Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc At Home literally screamed to be opened. Following the universe's command, I searched the index and found a chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Setting a canister filled with oats on one edge of the book to hold it down, I got busy collecting ingredients. An hour later, I had stacks of the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever made sitting on a cooling rack, both children begging for another...one more....half? They'd share with me...they promised. Just please let them have another.
Picky Eating: 0
My husband declared them the best I've ever made. My son actually said he preferred the old standby recipe (Dorie Greenspan) but agreed the texture of these cookies was much better, even if he prefers Dorie's flavor.
Two days later, the cookies are still a major star. My son asks for a cookie probably 10 times a day. Maggie eats two and three after dinner, which is a little unheard of for her. I tried two, the day I baked them, and every night I watch my family eat them with a pang. I'm not tempted to eat wheat-laden products often (as it does me no favors), but I do so want more of those cookies.
One final note before I get down to business and post the recipe I used (I made a few tweaks based on my low-level baking skills and dodgy ingredient list): Keller actually addresses the softness issue of cookies in his recipe.
He suggests that for a softer cookie, one mustn't under bake the cookies.
How many of us have tried this?
Don't do this, readers. There's a better way.
Keller suggests misting the cookies with water before baking.
Misting cookie dough?
Well....who am I to judge? I'm not Thomas Keller. I got my water bottle from the ironing board and misted a batch of those cookies like a pro.
Results? They were softer and slightly fluffier. It totes works.
I should say the original bake time yields exactly what Keller promises: a cookie slightly crispy on the edge and soft in the middle. So, while I didn't need to soften them this time, I consider this trick a real gem to keep in the repertoire.
With that....the recipe:
Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc At Home)
2 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
10 oz. chocolate chips (Keller suggests 5 oz. 55% chocolate and 5 oz. 70-72% chocolate, cut into pieces and then strained through a fine-mesh basket strainer to remove chocolate 'dust' - I used Nestle semi-sweet)
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter (Keller suggests cutting it into small pieces, an instruction I failed to read and so just bunged them all together in the bowl)
1 cup packed brown sugar (I used light; Keller calls for dark but suggests molasses sugar is best - I don't even know what that is)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350.
Beat the butter for a few minutes to lighten it up and make it fluffy (I don't actually know what that means, so I just beat it until I have something else measured out). Add sugars. Continue beating butter and sugars while you grab the eggs. Add eggs one at a time, beating in between until egg is fully incorporated. Scrape down bowl and add dry ingredients until just combined. Mix in chocolate.
Scoop onto lined cookie sheet with cookie dough scoop (does anyone not have one of these?). I used parchment paper, as Silpat mats never seem to work for me.
Bake for 12 minutes, turning sheet half-way through. Let them rest a few minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to cooling rack.
1. I put 12 cookies on each sheet. Keller suggests putting only eight, as the cookies spread. It's that kind of attention to detail that makes him world famous. I'm just a mom. My cookies can spread a little.
2. There are all sorts of instructions for beating the butter and sifting flours I didn't pay attention to, so getting the book and looking at the actual recipe is a wonderful idea.
3. There is no vanilla. None. Can you imagine?
4. This entire book is fabulous. Really. And it's not just the recipes. Keller explains so much about cooking and baking in this book, and while I at first didn't think that sort of thing would be relevant for a home cook with kids who think ramen noodles are a delicacy, it has been incredibly helpful.
If you make them....let me know. I will eat one with you in my mind, where I eat heaps of lovely things without consequence.